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Moss (Maurice) Twomey (10 June 1897 – October 1978) was an Irish republican and chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Early life

Twomey was born in 1897 in Clondulane, near Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland and was educated by the Christian Brothers.[1] The son of a labourer at Hallinan’s Flour Mills in the town, Twomey went to work there at the age of 14 where he rose to the position of works manager. In 1914 he became active in the Irish Volunteers.[1]

War of Independence

By 1918 he was adjutant of the Fermoy Battalion and a year later became an adjutant of the Cork No. 2 Brigade. He took part in an ambush of British troops in Fermoy in September 1919, one of the first attacks on British soldiers in Ireland since the 1916 Easter Rising and one of the first of the Irish War of Independence. During 1920 he helped direct IRA intelligence in his brigade area. He was staff commandant of Liam Lynch’s 1st Southern Division when he was captured and imprisoned on Spike Island during 1921. He managed to escape from the prison by row boat along with Dick Barrett, Tom Crofts and Bill Quirke.

Civil War

Twomey opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, although he was critical of the tactics adopted by the anti-Treaty forces headquartered in the Four Courts, Dublin during June 1922. During the Irish Civil War, he became adjutant general on Liam Lynch’s staff and was with Lynch when he was killed on the Knockmealdowns mountains in April 1923. Twomey was imprisoned in the same month in Dublin.

IRA Chief of Staff

During 1924 he became involved in the reorganisation of the IRA, inspecting its southern divisions that summer and its northern units during 1925. First elected onto the IRA Executive at the November 1925 IRA General Army Convention, he became a full-time IRA activist although described his profession as “journalist”, justified somewhat by his regular contributions to the IRA weekly newspaper, An Phoblacht. During 1926 he was acting IRA chief of staff in the absence of Andy Cooney, and in 1927, he was confirmed in that position. In 1930, Twomey married Kathleen MacLaughlin of Donegal and had two children in the early 1930s. The same year he made a secret visit to the USA.

Under his leadership the IRA supported the Fianna Fáil government against the Blueshirts during 1932-1933.

On 18 June 1936, the Fianna Fáil government banned the IRA. The following day Twomey was tried and jailed for three years for membership of the newly proscribed organisation. Under the IRA constitution, his tenure as IRA chief of staff ended automatically upon his arrest. He was imprisoned in the Curragh from 1936 to 1938. During his period of imprisonment his family depended heavily on money sent to them by Joseph McGarrity of Clan na Gael, a US-based IRA fundraising organisation. On his release, Twomey became adjutant general on Seán Russell's army council. He travelled to Britain and inspected the IRA's units there. Twomey concluded that the IRA was in no position to launch a campaign and withdrew from IRA activity. In 1939 he opened a newsagents and confectioners in Dublin's O'Connell Street.

Post IRA life

Following a crackdown on the IRA by Éamon de Valera's government, he was interned for two weeks during 1940. He remained close to the IRA, giving assistance to republicans deported from Britain and mediating in disputes between IRA factions. While he did not take an active role in politics after the 1940s, he did speak at a number of republican commemorations, most notably at the restoration of Wolfe Tone's grave at Bodenstown in 1971. He never claimed an IRA pension from the Irish government or gave an account of his record to the Bureau of Military History, set up to record the recollections of participants involved in the struggle against British rule. He was badly injured in an accident in 1971 and was deeply affected by the death of his wife in April 1978. Twomey himself died in October of that year. The presence at his funeral of members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Sinn Féin The Workers’ Party and Provisional Sinn Féin, the Irish labour movement and old IRA comrades from the 1930s was evidence of his enduring popularity.

Twomey's papers from his period as IRA chief of staff, consisting of 28 boxes, are now kept at the Archives Department of University College Dublin.

Further reading


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